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Thaksin back, will stay away from Thai politics

Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made an emotional return from exile, swearing to stay out of politics despite a widespread belief he will run the country from behind the scenes.

world Updated: Feb 29, 2008 02:20 IST

Ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra made an emotional return from exile on Thursday, swearing to stay out of politics despite a widespread belief he will run the country from behind the scenes.

Within minutes of arriving, the telecoms billionaire surrendered to police on a corruption charge, and then, with tears in his eyes, left the terminal to greet the land of his birth after 18 months of enforced separation since the 2006 coup.

His palms clasped together in a gesture of respect, the 59-year-old knelt down and placed his forehead on the pavement.

Thousands of supporters waving roses and “We love Thaksin” banners cheered their hero, who was then whisked away in a motorcade of limousines to the Supreme Court, where he was granted 8 million baht ($268,500) bail.

Thaksin, ousted by generals accusing him of presiding over rampant corruption and disrespecting revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, protested his innocence during his journey home. But he also struck a conciliatory note, suggesting he might not embark immediately on a campaign of vengeance against the generals who booted him out.

“When the game is over, we must come together and settle our differences, forgive everything and help each other push the country forward,” he told reporters on the plane, a celebratory glass of champagne in his hands. “I can prove my innocence. The allegations are empty.”

Still, leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy which led 100,000-strong marches against Thaksin in Bangkok, protests which led to the coup, said they feared his allies in government would ensure he escaped the charge.